Beware the Frankensystem: How the HR tech industry created a monster


Oct 20, 2023

For too many HR departments, everyday tasks are harder than they need to be. Teams are overloaded with manual work, and frustrated by the number of steps it takes to do things like onboard employees, run payroll, and create reports. 

Sound familiar? Then you might be dealing with a Frankensystem: a lumbering, unreliable HR system that demoralizes your team and sabotages your most strategic work.

So how do Frankensystems come to life—and how do you know if one of these monsters is lurching its way through your company?

The making of a monster

No one knowingly chooses a jumble of disconnected HR tools. Frankensystems creep up on you—here’s how it happens…  

You want to make HR tasks faster, easier, and more efficient, so you look for a system that has it all: HRIS, payroll, benefits, expenses, time tracking, and other tools.

After implementing one of these systems, you start to notice problems like these: 

  • Manual updates on repeat. You make an update—like changing an employee’s address—in one module, but the new information isn’t reflected elsewhere. So you create a checklist to ensure you enter, and re-enter, the data in all the right places. Suddenly, even the simplest employee update requires multiple rounds of data entry.  
  • Limited reporting. You can’t run reports across all your employee data—for example, combining performance management data with payroll data. Instead, you download multiple csvs and join them up in Excel. Copy, paste, troubleshoot errors, repeat.  
  • Inadequate automations. Your custom automations are only limited to a few triggers, so you can’t automate most of your ideas to improve the employee experience—like sending a gift message in the middle of an employee’s maternity leave. 

What’s the cause? Your “all-in-one” HR system is actually a Frankensystem. Instead of being a single platform, it’s disconnected on the back end: shoddily hammered together either from acquired companies, white-labeled solutions, or simply built without a fully unified source of truth in mind.

With any bolted-together monstrosity, you can expect sparks to fly and bolts to come loose. And the problems caused by your Frankensystem will get even more disruptive as your company grows. Over time, minor nuisances transform into an unmanageable deluge of busy work—with your most important strategic initiatives getting lost in the flood.

Here are some of the most common types of Frankensystem—and the telltale signs that they’re dragging down your company operations… 

Which Frankensystem is lurking in your HR stack?

Ancient Frank: Outdated and error-prone

With Ancient Frank, things are so much harder than they need to be. Want to do something basic, like promoting an employee? Think again: with this error-prone old relic, you have to manually change all of your employee’s security permissions to reflect their new scope. And that’s not all:

  • You can’t run the reports you want to. You practically need a PhD if you want to run a report yourself—and if you want a custom report, you’re on hold with Ancient Frank’s support team. You’re lucky if the data you need is available at all: it’s siloed in multiple systems, because Ancient Frank acquires other companies and simply bolts them on.  
  • You have endless tabs open, and you’re logging in over and over. Thanks to his ancient foundations and all those acquisitions, Ancient Frank doesn’t have a consistent UI, and the multiple logins across mobile and web slow down and stress out your employees.
  • Ancient Frank glitches right when you need him most, forcing you to scramble for workarounds. Did you try turning him off and on again?

“Global” Frank: Outsources your compliance obligations

Ever since “Global” Frank spent that one summer in Italy, he thinks he knows all about managing a global workforce. In reality, he doesn't know (or follow) the rules—he heavily relies on third-party partnerships and white-labeled local solutions instead. As a result:

  • Your global contractors complain about delayed or incorrect payments. That’s because Global Frank relies on an aggregated network of third-party providers, all of whom have their own processes. The result: delays, errors, and unhappy contractors.
  • These third-party providers also don’t always know the nuances of local tax regulations, or understand country-specific employment laws. You have to manually keep track of these rules and regulations—or risk running headlong into compliance issues and fines. 

This puts your organization at risk of hefty fines and even legal action. That’s what we call scary.

Phony Frank: Half-built functionality 

When he delivers his sales pitch, Phony Frank says he can do it all, from advanced workflows to timely support. Just don’t ask too many questions. Because, once you sign up, the reality is underwhelming: 

  • Your automations are limited. Phony Frank can only automate a few tasks based on a small number of events. That means he can only take away a tiny percentage of your manual work. 
  • You can’t integrate most of your third-party applications. Phony Frank is missing integrations to the apps your employees love. And for integrations that exist, he can only perform the most basic tasks, like provisioning and deprovisioning licenses.
  • You can’t resolve support issues quickly. Calling Phony Frank is like calling an airline: You get bounced around by support and have to re-explain your situation until you finally reach an “expert.”

Phony Frank holds you back—after all, a growing business can’t maintain a competitive edge with bare-minimum software. You need the only HR system that isn’t stitched together, piece-by-piece.

Rippling: Truly unified HR software (no mad scientist required)

Step aside, Dr. Frankenstein. The best HR system has everything you need, already built-in, to grow with your business and free your team up to be more strategic.

Meet Rippling. It’s fully unified, full-featured, and available all over the world. Don’t just take our word for it, Rippling is the #1 rated HR vendor on G2, Capterra, and Trustradius.

Here’s what happens when your HR system is fully integrated:

  • You can onboard employees and contractors—across the world—in 90 seconds.
  • You’ll get alerts to flag potential overtime violations, minimum wage violations, training violations, and more—helping protect you from costly compliance infractions. 
  • You can build and visualize any report you want, at any time.
  • You can create automations based on any employee lifecycle event.

Rippling simplifies everything about running your workforce. With a single system to hire, pay, and manage employees and contractors, you can banish Frankensystems from your organization for good.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: March 26, 2024

The Author

The Rippling Team

Global HR, IT, and Finance know-how directly from the Rippling team.